What Sets Tori Apart From Tori Wannabes

An artist's greatness only very rarely appears before an artist has spent a great deal of time learning the work of previous greats. With such modern painters as Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, it is almost impossible to relate their early proficient works with the body of work for which they are most well-known. Only an art historian could attempt to compare these artists’ formative years of practice with the unmistakable and inimitable style they later cultivated and actualized on their canvases.

And so it is with Tori: her style cannot be mistaken, and her brilliance cannot be imitated, but this is not just the incidental result of her being blessed with an extraordinary natural gift for music. It is because she really, truly is classically trained, which does not merely mean that she has studied the classical composers, but that she has spent many, many years internalizing their compositions, and for many hours a day, every day. But she has made these points herself in various interviews, pieces of which are quoted here.

“I think I’m lucky to have skated through under the guise of pop musician. I’m really a classical musician.”

“Being trained the way I was trained, I don't think about it, it's just the way I hear things. Because Bartok [Béla Bartok, early 20th Century Hungarian composer] was such a hero of mine, I think differently. My chord vocabulary is different than a jazz player's. One isn't better than the other; they're just different, very different."

“ Hours a Day ”
Quotes from Tori about her level of commitment to her craft

On her acceptance to the Peabody Conservatory at the age of 11:
“I played for hours a day by then. That’s what I did. I didn’t play with dolls…”

On her decision to do Y Kant Tori Read:
“I'd been playing for 20 years - heavy, nine to ten hours a day - and this went to my desire to be successful and approved of…”

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years, 12 hours a day, and that hasn’t changed.”

Even on the road, Amos spends several hours a day at the piano, experimenting with new songs. “I'll work on bass patterns and then solo patterns and the I'll change them around because I hate half of them. It's just constantly discovering, when can I do with this chord, how many ways can I play it? Maybe I'll discover something in the first ten seconds and then nothing in the next two hours, and I really should have stopped after the first ten seconds and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

“What’s spontaneity? There isn’t any spontaneity. I’m just speaking for me right now. On stage, when I play, that’s my moment of freedom, but 19 hours a day are packed with what’s got to happen to get to the next show.”
As a sidenote, there is a similar statement, from Auguste Renoir, who said:
“I made this drawing in less than five minutes, but it took me sixty years to be able to do that.”

On her decision to leave the Conservatory:
“…my father was a serious task-master about me practicing. And I got sick of playing classical music for eight hours a day just because everybody else was playing it that was in my classes. So you'd hear ten people playing the same Debussy piece or the same Chopin piece and I was bored out of my head. So I would go and get other music.”
On a related note: It has become a commonplace for college dropouts to refer to the fact that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, but, of course, the logical rebuttal is always “Yeah, but first he got in.” And for a prodigy of such a caliber as Tori demonstrated from so early on, it is of course such a great decision that she made in wanting to be a groundbreaking and totally new kind of composer and musician, rather than just to exist in some sort of classical-music echo chamber, doomed to just repeating the music of others without getting to try out her own style and sound. And, as reiterated above, she had already devoted so many years of her life to the work of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, and Liszt (as other interviews are articles note), and she, too, is now a continuator of their tradition, which means that she has kept them alive by reinterpreting and re-visioning the compositional, structural, rhythmic, and melodic definitions they created, acknowlegding their greatness by re-creating the language of their music for her own self. In effect, her musical voice had been silent all those years, yet it took so much listening--to their music from her own hands, for her to then express what would be uniquely hers. After all, as with any art, one must learn the rules before one can effectively break them... As the late-19th Century painter Paul Gaugin once said: "Art is either plagiarism or revolution." But anyway…

From an interview called “Tori Amos reveals her style secrets”—
Question: How do you stay in shape?
“I play the piano for a few hours a day – it’s a real workout…”

As for those who attempt to copy her style or sound, their best efforts all still lack Tori’s natural musical ability, yes, but they also lack the astonishing technical prowess that comes only from years of passionate study and learning. The incredible force that is a unique vision supported by consummate skill is something for which there are no tricks, no shortcuts, and no substitutes.

“…musicians have a different skill, if they choose to develop it, and some of them don’t. They think that if they play a few chords, they’re musicians. That doesn’t honor the music, that doesn’t honor the muse. It’s something that I really had to get clear in my head, because I don’t think that’s an understanding that musicians have and I see a lot of them in pain, and I’ve been in pain. It’s not like two hours a day are set aside on every radio station for the encouragement of pioneering music. I think a lot of musicians are very frustrated because they may have this wonderful ability, but to merge that with the pop world, it can be very frustrating. It’s one thing that I have to work through all the time; I really have to not become a number on a pop chart. It’s like your worth, if they say you’re only number 68.”

“In the music press,” she says, winding up for the pitch, “people rarely talk about the actual music, because most journalists don’t know anything about it, and that’s just a fact.”
“People talk about lyrics, hair, attitude—just plain commentary. But rarely is it about what’s in the left hand, or about the juxtaposition between the words and the music, or what that brings up in you as a listener. In dance, they actually talk about dance, and in the visual arts, it isn’t all about how ‘the artist paints with his legs spread.’ Finally, you have to figure that people don’t talk about music because that isn’t the focus of the music industry, which does kinda make you scratch your head.”

Question (once again): How do you stay in shape?
“I am convinced that Frenchwomen don’t get fat because they eat two or three proper meals a day – real food. I don’t do sugar substitutes.”

“Bring me sugar…” In what form, though? The answer can be found here:

"Bjork makes me think I can jump off rooftops, and Polly makes me want to eat mangoes so I don’t stay dry 24 hours a day. "